Sunday, October 9, 2011

Bike Tour: 23 day Photo Reel

First of all, I am full heartily apologetic that I have neglected this blog. I know I have a small following (though I'm not sure how frequent you all come here now-a-days due to my lax mindset) but a following is a following and I need to take that into consideration, right?! Right.

So here are 23+ photos from our 23 day bike tour we cycled our asses off during the entire month of September. We completed over 1,850 km over the course of 23 days (including two rest days each a week apart). It was one of the hardest things I've done in country but also I am so glad I decided to participate in the entire tour and COMPLETED it. :]

*Note: The distances posted are the projected distances, many times they were 10-15 km longer but some days the gods of google gave us a few km off

Day 0: Karfigula!
We (Kelsey from AMERICALAND, Rob and I) were on top of one of the few tourist-y spots here in Burkina Faso, the cascades! No swimming for us due to Schistosomiasis... look it up, it's something you don't want. Tomorrow's our first day of biking.

Day 1: Karfigula - Orodara :: 65 Kilometers
Bike Glove Club: Missing a few key players (Jon, Anne, myself, Rob and Chris)
We're clean, excited and don't quite know how over our heads we are at this time...

Day 2: Orodara - Bobo Dialasso :: 80 Kilometers
We're in the South West region of the country where hills and valleys plague the roadways. I'm sure this is me exhausted and just wanting to show the world how much my legs are working. A picture doesn't do it justice...

Day 3: Bobo - Bereba :: 102 Kilometers...
This is the day Google Maps decided to lie to us all and add on about 30 kilometers. We (Rob and I) got lost on the way to Bereba (Ali's site) and ended up having to call the car due to the fact we road out 20 km, then had to ride 20 km back to where we took a wrong turn. Needless to say, it was a long long long day.

Day 4: Bereba - Dedougou :: 119 Kilometers
Photo Credit: Sara
I was officially in the back doing my thing. This is the front of the group (Chris, Jon, Rob and Ali) leading us to Daniel Doval's site in the big city of Dedougou.

Day 5: Dedougou - Tenado :: 106 Kilometers
All dirt roads today but according to Jon and Daniel that's just fine. I had stopped to take a break a the fork in the road and these two were only about 2 minutes behind me... Dani showed up shortly after that. After stopping in Tchiriba (spelling is completely wrong, sorry) and buying my oh so special fat man, Rasheda and I biked at a very leisurely pace to Tenado.

Day 6: Tenado - Koudougou :: 45 Kilometers
Dusty dusty sandy hot roads. Ew. One of our few short days... We made a stop in Reo to make some Neem Cream (anti-mosquito cream) with Lindsay's association. Met some Brits and all was well in the world.

Day 7: REST

Day 8: Koudougou - Latodin :: 100 Kilometers
Perks of leaving at 5:30 in the AM... beautiful sunrise ALWAYS.
Downside... getting up at 4:30, and packing the car at 5:00

Day 9: Latodin - Bissiguin :: 106 Kilometers
Stopped on the side of the road and found these kids with Chev. She asks if I want to take a picture of them... I say, "no, not really" and then I pull my camera out. I make sense.

Day 10: Bissiguin - Koussouko :: 65 Kilometers
Dance parties are always necessary with my life partner, Chev. This was either Wiz Khalifa, Tupac or Rhianna. Yea, you're jealous.

Annnd Rob's bike is more than half my size. My hand points to where his seat hits my waist. I don't understand how tall he is. He later took my bike a rode around. He looked ridiculous.

Day 11: Koussouko - Sabce :: 48 Kilometers
My two favorite people in this country. The last 4 km to Sabce were a bitch: rocky, sandy paths up and down (mostly up) hills. Not fun. Not fun at all.

Good news, got to show off my fat man (and friends) in order to repackage him to go off to Ouaga where he waited for me 'til the tour was finished.

Day 12: Sabce - Kaya :: 65 Kilometers
Pavement for a few handfuls of kilometers and then dirt road from there... and water? This is how all the bike tour participants caught schistosomiasis. Just kidding, mom (and country director)... but no, really. We rode through lots of water!!

Day 13: Sabce - Boulsa :: 78 Kilometers
Another medium sized day. Chev and I took a good amount of breaks this day for dance parties and photo ops. This is her being quite deranged due to the fact that our driver hadn't checked up on us in quite a while and our water was so LOW! Contemplating using this dirty rain/excrement/onion watering water...

Day 14: Boulsa - Bilanga Yanga :: 80 Kilometers
More water that we crossed over... I literally believed I would be washed away as I was biking through the overflow from the dam. This is us celebrating our survival.

Day 15: Bilanga Yanga - Fada :: 70 Kilometers...
The projected kilometers would have been correct if we had been able to take the direct route from Bilanga to Koupela and off to Fada... but instead we had to go this absurdly long way due to construction on a dam or road or lake. Anyway - the road was flooded into a oceanic lake. We ended up riding 134km that day.

Needless to say our day off was much needed.

Along with sleeping in a bit, we were privileged to participate in a mostly Burkinabé run fair which was set up by the three musketeers in Fada: Joey, Louis and Scott. They're real troopers setting this thing up.

ps. Rob is a creeper

Day 17: Fada - Nakaba :: 83 Kilometers
This is the infamous day Hilary learned how to ride her bike without hands through my persistent coaching and encouragement. Good job Hil!! You're doing it, you're doing it!

Day 18: Nakaba - Tenkodogou :: 80 Kilometers
Good ol' drafting mentality finally came into play this day. We had lines and lines of us just drafting off of one another. Great most of the time, bad when people follow a little too closely and then eat pavement. Ouch!

Day 19: Tenkodogou - Beka :: 108 Kilometers
I was really excited about visiting Beka (for my second time!) and seeing how Josh and Ashley have survived their first (many) months of marriage life and living together. The village had lots of music and dancing when we arrived and (of course) Ashley fed us oh so well when we got to their place.

This was our escort to Beka... huge guns are always necessary?

Day 20: Beka - Po :: 82 Kilometers
Another VERY early morning. I especially love this photo. Everyone is working by headlamp, flashlight or by your phone light. Bike maintenance and packing the support vehicle.

Day 21: Po - Leo :: 124 Kilometers
This was the second longest day of the tour... and to make things even more intense it was ALL (except for maybe 20km) on dirt roads. We left Po and went into Nezinga Park and hoped to spot some elephants (no luck) and went out towards Sourou via the Diallo - Po road and cut away from Sourou to get to the main road and down to Leo we went. Bright side of things: Rob and I found this guy in the middle of the road and got distracted for about 7-10 minutes! He then decided to hiss and attack my head due to the fact that Rob tried to take him off my sleeve... it was, perhaps, the most frightening moment of my life.

Day 22: Leo - Gallo :: 80 Kilometers
Chev's house has a major mouse problem which just got worse... her evil mice (who eat EVERYTHING: even fake grapes and then die on the floor only to be found a couple weeks later, ew) had babies!! I found one. Rob and I named him Fifel. No, I didn't eat him. We let him go to nature... he was probably a great meal for a large bird or cat.

Day 23: Gallo - Ouaga :: 80 Kilometers
Photo Credit: Scott
Well guys. We made it. It was great sunny weather all throughout the tour except for our last day heading into Ouaga... around 8AM it started to down pour and didn't stop until we got into Ouaga around noon. This is a picture of *most* of the riders throughout the tour. Yellow is for all the permanent riders and the red or green and white shirts are for people who joined us.

I hope you all enjoyed this. I am sorry I took so long to put this up. I've been thinking about posting it for a while but I've been busy with all kinds of other things that I'll go into when I write my next post... which might be tomorrow! :]

Saturday, August 27, 2011



These guys have been spotted on numerous occasions while biking out on brousse (out in the bush/woods). Every time I see them they are in this humongous swarm; all moving as one, all crawling on top of each other, all together. Haven't seen them anywhere else in the country... but I'm sure they're out there - lurking and overflowing with swarminess...

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Measuring Success

I hope everyone remembers what kind of projects I mentioned in my last update and how I was sure these things would be completed within the short time frame of being home (aw. at site)...

So, I put my foot down and was determined to start, conquer and finish an accelerated HEARTH model: a workshop for mothers with moderately malnourished babies between the ages of 6 - 9 months which lasts for five to seven days meeting each morning to make enriched porridge and discuss certain
health related topics. phew!

I talked with my wonderful counterpart Allisone to get the ball moving and we decided to work with five women for seven days (we ended up working with four of the five women due to the fact that on the day of the baseline we found out one of the woman's baby was five months and couldn't participate in the program). These women all had babies between six and nine months of age. We started on a Friday (really, I suppose technically we started on the Thursday to obtain the baseline and weigh the babies) and continued until the following Thursday.

First two days: Nutrition; the three food groups (enérgetique, constructeur & protecteur), how to use them and why. We played a game to gage the women's comprehension of the lesson... it was fun. Then we talked about malnutrition and the two types prevalent here in Burkina Faso (Marasmus and Kwashiokor)

Next thing I know the women trick me into letting them off for a day (for church, of course, pff) and then they end up not showing up for two more consecutive days. Boo. The first morning after church I went to the maternity and waited there for about an hour until I finally went to their individual houses to see if they were there or not. Well, they were. I found Martine just making some tô for her family and when I asked what she was doing and why she hadn't come to the session she said "oh, we can just do it tomorrow right?" blargh. No! I found the other three women doing the same thing and I told all of them I'd be waiting for them at the maternity... they didn't show. The same event occurred the following day and as soon as I was about to call it quits the fourth day they all showed up... well, three women showed (hey, it's better than NONE!)

Fourth day: Family Planning; why it's necessary to take time off in-between birthing children, contraceptive options in Sourou (Depo Provera, male condoms and birth control pills), how to properly use a condom (all seven steps).

Fifth day rolls around and I'm pretty content on just having a five day formation now... it's better than nothing and it's at least something that I can work off when I get back from the tour. I wait at the maternity with high hopes of the women showing up on time, being interested in the discussion of family planning and making enriched porridge again...

an hour passes...

No one shows up. Take a breath. Okay. I guess they don't want to show up again. I'll come back again tomorrow - I won't give up on the workshop. The next day rolls around and the same thing happens and I'm completely deflated. One more day left and I ask myself if it's even worth staying in village to wait it out or just to go up to Ouaga or another village to help out another volunteer. I decide to stay.

New plans. I'll plant my mango trees (I bought three of them: one for the CSPS, one for the school and one for my family). I go to the CSPS Friday morning and plant the tree with Allisone. I also waited for the women to show up (I really wasn't expecting them to... but you never know)... they never did. So. Three disconnected days of a HEARTH workshop and one day of planting trees.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Okay, Now an Update

Here's an itty bitty update.

I went back to site two days ago for the first time in quite a while. It was amazing to be back. Everyone was extremely excited to see me; they all teased me about being gone for so long and, of course, asked me if I brought something back for them, but to my surprise it was all very nice. One of my moms helped me sweep out my dusty house (so nice!), the CSPS staff was genuine and listened to my future project plans (surprise), the marche ladies were ecstatic to have me back (and buy their food) and my favorite mom scolded me while shaking her finger and counting the weeks I've been gone, but immediately afterwards went through the whole spcheel of salutations.

I'm doing an accelerated HEARTH model starting Friday. It will be a week long formation with five women and their malnourished babies (between the ages of 7 - 10.5 months). We will meet each morning for an hour and a half to make enriched porridge and go over certain health topics: the lesson plan will break down as follows...

Thursday: Record Weight of Babies
Friday: Pre-Test, Nutrition. Lesson on Nutrition
Saturday: Lesson on Nutrition. Post-Test
Sunday: Pre-Test, Family Planning. Lesson on FP
Monday: Lesson on FP. Post-Test
Tuesday: Pre-Test, Malaria. Lesson on Malaria
Wednesday: Lesson on Malaria. Post-Test
Thursday: Final Test. Each woman will present something they learned over the past six days. Record weight of babies.

I'm really excited!!

I'll also be :

making some anti-mosquito cream with a group in a satellite village using natural, reusable ingredients.

teaching women how to make liquid soap

planting nine moringa trees and three mango trees

biking around

Once September rolls around I'll be biking all around the country. That's what the last post was about... please donate what you can so we have the funds to do projects like the ones listed above. I'll be participating in the entire tour - 23 days of non-stop biking. Whoo! It'll be quite a challenge, but I'm looking forward to it.

Until next time.
Take care.

Le Tour de Burkina

Second annual Bike Tour kicks off the 31st of August, 2011.

I'll copy and paste the informational letter here:

Dear Family and Friends of Peace Corps Burkina Faso,

Beginning August 31, 2011, Peace Corps volunteers from around Burkina Faso will be participating in Le Tour de Burkina, the second annual country-wide bike tour to raise money for Gender and Development projects in Burkina.

Gender and Development projects encompass a huge variety of volunteer projects, be they organizing a girls’ camp to promote self-esteem and goal setting or helping a women's group conduct an income generating activity. These are of critical importance in Burkina Faso and represent a significant component of each volunteer’s work. The Gender and Development (GAD) Committee exists to support volunteer-initiated, gender equity projects around Burkina Faso; with Le Tour de Burkina we hope to generate funds so the GAD Committee can give small-scale project grants and volunteers can continue the essential work of promoting gender awareness and equality in Burkina Faso. We’re proud to say that last year’s tour raised nearly $5,000 – enough to fund 35 GAD grants.

Please help us reach this year’s fundraising goal of $6,000 by visiting our blog and making a donation:

To be certain your donation reaches Gender and Development projects, be sure to specify
“GAD Gender and Development” in the Comments section.

In Burkina Faso, one dollar goes a long way, so even the smallest contribution will make a big difference. Follow the blog to learn more about the tour, which projects were funded last year, and to stay updated while we’re on the road.

This year we will be riding for 23 days, covering 1,700 kilometers (that’s the distance from New York City to Orlando), and passing by 32 volunteer sites. In addition to kicking off celebrations of Peace Corps’ 50th anniversary, the tour will increase awareness of Peace Corps Burkina Faso’s activities and reinforce the relationships within volunteers’ communities.

Thanks for your support!


Peace Corps Burkina Faso

Gender and Development Committee

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Non-Update

This is just to let everyone who is following my blog that I am truly sorry that I haven't written in a thousand and one years!! I've been busy with my personal life and my professional life. I'm planning on periodically updating this thing just as it comes to me. I will no longer take things from my journal - they seemed to be too personal... which some people may appreciate, but others may find TMI.


That's it.

Keep tuned in.
I promise I'll write something soon!!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Staring Contest

Undetermined day in March… Sometime between Tuesday and the following Tuesday

I swear – sometimes I want to scream at people here. Okay, maybe not, but I honestly don’t get it when kids and even teenagers stare at me when I’m not doing a damn thing. They treat me like an animal at a zoo (at least it’s not a petting zoo, huh?). But all this little girl has done all morning is stare at me. I wake up and look out to the courtyard and I see this girl sitting directly across the way from me… I fall back asleep for a little while, wake up again and there she is… just… staring. I sit up and look around and now she’s moved to a spot where she can stare some more… seriously? Really, is it necessary to keep an eye on me at all times? Am I really that interesting, scary, magnificent, grotesque? I mean, come on – my life is not that exciting. I do not do extraordinary things. I can’t breath fire. I can’t fly. I can’t even play soccer.